Shanty rentals hit roof, but conditions remain sub-human!

Jayashree Nandi TNN (Times of India, 23 September 2012)

New Delhi: Square foot for square foot, your maid probably pays more than you to live in Delhi. A rent of Rs 2,500 a month might seem meagre, but when you consider the typical shanty room measures only 8x10sqft or less, the unit rate comes to more than Rs 30 per square foot. That’s like paying Rs 30,000 a month for a two-bedroom 1,000sqft apartment. Unlike apartments, though, shanties lack toilets and bathrooms, wall sockets and running water. They are neither weather-proof nor earthquake-safe. 
    A recent study by the School of Planning and Architecture’s (SPA) National Resource Centre to assess the capital’s rental housing options for low-income groups has made shocking findings. It shows that even after spending half their monthly earnings, poor families cannot rent anything better than a j h u g g i. While SPA found the rents go up to Rs 1,200, TOI’s visits to some slums showed the rents touched Rs 2,500 in places. 
    Rents vary with a slum’s proximity to the city centre. For instance, a shack in Sarojini Nagar or Jal Vihar fetches a higher price than one in Barapullah. But the land mafia makes a killing regardless of the area. 
    In the ‘Madrasi Camp’ shanties in Nizamuddin, rents hover around Rs 1,000. But go south to an area like Jal Vihar, and every j h u g g i is rented out for Rs 2,000 or more. “For new migrants to Delhi, there is no option but to rent j h u g g i s. You can get a room for nothing less than Rs 5,000, which most of us cannot afford. People have started renting out j h u g g i s to augment their income,” says Ganesh Prabhu, a construction labourer from Tamil Nadu. He has been staying in the Nizamuddin squatters’ colony for 25 years. 
    Sanjiv and his wife Bela came to Delhi from Benaras for better employment opportunities. Sanjiv did get a job as a courier delivery boy with a salary of Rs 4,000. “But we did not anticipate the steep rents. We pay Rs 2,000 a month as rent for our j h u g g i. I am thinking of working as household help,” says Bela, who lives in a 7×10 feet j h u g g inear Jal Vihar. 
    Slums near Jal Vihar, behind Lajpat Nagar market, have higher rents. “Here rents for j h u g g i s hover around Rs 2,000. Most of the families living in rented j h u g- g i s earn about Rs 4,000. We are a family of five. The room is too cramped, but we try to keep it clean. In many parts of the city the conditions are even worse,” says Rajesh, a scavenger. 
    The rents have increased drastically over the last few years. “Earlier, very few migrants would rent a j h u g g i. But due to lack of space, people now have no option but to stay on rent. A few years ago, rents were not higher than a few hundred rupees. They have tripled, or increased four times in some cases. People also have to pay in advance. I know of people who have paid Rs 10,000 in advance for a j h u gg i,” says Sunil Kumar Jaiswal of Mumbai-based Society for the Promotion of Area Resources Centres (SPARC), who works with slum dwellers in Delhi. 
    Professor of Housing at SPA, Neelima Risbud, says this trend is disturbing, especially when the rents are eating into the occupants’ meagre income. “J h u g g i s are rented out in most of Delhi’s slums. What do these j h u g g i s offer for a rent of Rs 1,200? Nothing. We have sent our report to the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation and recommended that rental housing facilities be provided to low-income groups,” Risbud adds. 
    Mumbai’s slums are infamous for rents as high as Rs 10,000 per j h u g g i, but Delhi may also follow suit, and add to the burden of the poor.


PRICE OF POVERTY: The rent for this room in the Madrasi Camp slum is Rs 1,200



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